Saturday, 26 January 2013

Maeterlinck’s classics premiere at the Old Red Lion Theatre

One of my grand theories is that twentieth century theatre, inspired by the example of Dada and Duchamp, spent the last century trying to find a way for the script to imitate the visceral immediacy of the genre that would eventually become Live Art. Unfortunately, this means regarding western theatre as hermetically sealed and discarding the influence of international stage traditions that become prominent in Europe during the latter half of the century (Kathikali, for example, is listed as an exotic dance in one of my out-of-date text books: by 1994, a troupe was performing in my local church hall). It also denies the importance of the "visual theatre" movement - the work I coo about during manipulate - which isn't that fixated on the script.

Instead, I point to Genet's The Maids, Beckett's Godot and Sarah Kane's Crave, connecting their brutal themes and universal despair to the more personal visions of The National Review of Live Art (gone, but not forgotten).

Maeterlinck, however, is a reminder that the script was evolving without any help from proto-live artists in Zurich. The Intruder is 122 years old, was directed, at different times, by Stanislavski and Meyerhold and is a symbolic drama that has those absurdist signposts - a hostile universe and a meaning captured in the specific that has a broader implication.

The Intruder - joined by Maeterlinck's masterpiece, The Blind- arrives at the Old Red Lion Theatre in April. Although they won Nobel Prizes, they are not staged with the same frequency as Godot et al, but retain their heavy atmosphere and darkling mystery even in the twenty-first century. 

Tarquin productions are presenting this pairing on the back of a successful run of The Monk (Lyn Gardner was a fan). For director Benji Sperring, these shows are a chance to show how relevant and dynamic contemporary production can be - even with an old school script.  said: "The Blind and The Intruder will show that new theatre-makers like ourselves are creative, intelligent and not afraid to take risks, putting a thrilling twist on classic literature and embracing inspiration from artists and perfumers to computer games and zombie films," says Sperring. "The modern theatre-goer has many mediums in their lives, and we want to incorporate as many of these into the experience. Tarquin Productions is stretching the boundaries of modern-day theatre.”

The Blind- which I saw in an animatronic version during New Territories - stars a group of blind people, stuck in a forest. They ponder whether they can find their way out. The person who is supposed to be leading them home is a priest, but he has disappeared. Not at all symbolic, then, being written during the period when the church was being challenged by the emergence of an intelligent, scientific atheism. And Beckett can't have been inspired by the themes of hopelessness and insecurity.

The Intruder, meanwhile, operates like the misunderstanding of Schrodinger's Cat: is there something in the woodshed, or is the grandfather going senile?

Of course, what these plays reflect is the social instability that marked the rise of science and the retreat of Christianity: scripts being influenced by their time, yet retaining meaning a century later. I think we can safely ignore their influence, since science doesn't like to be reminded of how it isn't just the harbinger of light and reason, theatre would rather be timeless and universal and I don't want my grand theory about Live Art and the Script being undermined. 

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